The Toronto International Film Festival always elects a People’s Choice: the festival’s most-loved film, as voted by the regular people who bought tickets and went to the shows. They have not, historically, been big into awards, but that changes this year. They’re not going to declare best actors in the movies screened, but they are giving out several honourary awards in a glitzy ceremony meant to raise money for their year-round efforts.
Meryl Streep is, fittingly, receiving the inaugural TIFF Tribute Actor Award. As the most Oscar nominated actor in history, it would be hard to go with anyone else, as she’s gracing the festival as part of Steven Soderbergh’s The Laudromat. Is that the smell of nomination #22 in the air?
And after the world’s first TIFF Tribute Actor Award comes its second, into the hands of Joaquin Phoenix, whom you may have heard is in a little film this year called Joker in which he plays an emaciated loner named Arthur.
Even more excitingly (to me), is the Roger Ebert Director Award. Historically, the Roger Ebert Golden Thumb Award has been given out at TIFF, so it’s nice they’re continuing to honour Ebert’s passion and love for films. The Golden Thumb has been given to people like Scorsese, Claire Denis, Ava DuVernay, Wim Wenders, and Agnès Varda. This year, the newly minted Roger Ebert Director Award is going to one of my absolute favourites, Taika Waititi. Not only have I loved him for more than a decade, I used his early films as a Rorschach test of sorts for potential boyfriends. I will be delighted to be in the audience when he screens Jojo Rabbit for an assuredly enthusiastic TIFF crowd.
Also wonderful: the Variety Artisan Award will be presented to Roger Deakins! If you know movies, you know Deakins’ work, even if you haven’t noticed his name in the credits. But movie lovers know him, in fact, practically have a cult dedicated to his honour. His cinematography is out of this world – sometimes almost literally. The man has amassed 14 Oscar nominations before finally winning his first in 2018 (for Blade Runner 2049). He lensed Sicario, Unbroken, Prisoners, Skyfall, True Grit, The Reader, No Country For Old Men, Fargo, The Shawshank Redemption…and the list goes on. This year his work can be seen at the festival in The Goldfinch.
And finally we have the Mary Pickford Award for emerging female talent. If I may, just a quick word about Mary Pickford if you fail to recognize the name.She was the pioneering actor, producer, and co-founder of United Artists (which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, not coincidentally). Pickford was a Toronto native and Hollywood’s highest-paid actor (male or female) in the late 1910s. She helped turn the industry into what it is today. So her award goes to an emerging female talent who is also making groundbreaking strides in the industry. Who better, then, to receive this honour than French actress and director Mati Diop? Her film, Atlantics, screened at Cannes earlier this year, making her the first black female director to screen a film in competition there. Her film went on to win the Grand Prix.